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Whisky Buying Habits

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@PMessinger
PMessinger started a discussion

Have you ever wondered if the make up of our cabinets is due more to our actual preferences or to our buying habits as we explore the unknown that we want to try for the first time?? Of all the whiskeys in your cabinet, what percentage are strangers that have not yet been tried? How does your quest to explore new whiskey influence your buying habits and the regional makeup of your cabinet?:)

11 years ago

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@Victor
Victor replied

Habits and patterns in buying whisk(e)y? I used to buy full bottles of well-known standards, but now I usually prefer to sample before buying a bottle. I definitely will try to sample as many of the very popular drams that I haven't already tried, as I can. I don't assume that I will like a popular whisky which I have not yet tried sufficiently to want a bottle of it. I have never encountered anyone whose taste is identical to mine, and I do not expect to find such a taste-identical-twin. If I like a whisky a great deal I will look to lay in several addtional bottles of it, because there is no assurance that that same juice with the same taste profile will be available in the future, much less at the identical price.

Out of 190+ different whiskies in the house, the only ones I haven't sampled are a bottle of Octomore 2.1, a bottle of Rittenhouse 21 yo rye, some of the newer releases of Sazerac/Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskeys, and some much appreciated samples from several Connosr members. The SAC whiskeys will wait until I finish open bottles of other releases of the same whiskeys. The samples are waiting until I am in a proper frame of mind to review them. The Octomore and Rittenhouse will await some very important occasions in the future.

I do find a great pull and tension between the desire to try new whiskies and the desire to drink something which I know that I already love. Nowadays I have so many open and unopen bottles that I am more interested in getting samples than whole bottles (though I would dearly love to have another bottle of Octomore 2.2). Happily my wild-ass sister keeps me engaged with certain catgegories of spirits which I wouldn't be as likely to buy for myself, such as new-make and very young new distillery products. Those are great fun to sample, but much of the time I am very happy that I don't have to store (or give away) a bottle of the stuff in question.

As to regional make-up, I have a lot American whiskies because they are inexpensive here compared to Eur-Asian products. Where I live it is literally cheaper to buy a 750 ml bottle of some bourbons than it is to have a shot of the same whiskey at the bar of an upscale hotel or restaurant. In those cases I buy the bottle of something I want to try for the first time.

11 years ago 3Who liked this?

@bourbondrinker

Hi guys, I would say that whisky buying habits are formed primarily by whiskey availability / accessibility (residence location) and budget. Then again if you have an extensive cabinet say like Victor (hi Eugene!) and the better part of it being opened bottles, yes you would be looking for mini bottles and samples, because for a whisky lover the drive lies in the vast range of different whiskeys and flavors one can find out there and now ever more exiting with what we call World Whiskies. But of course we always have some favorites in stock and these are usually our "first love - Whiskies" you know, those non-rare, non-expensive ones!

11 years ago 2Who liked this?

@teebone673
teebone673 replied

I used to buy bottles based on reviews, having never tried. I would then decide which of those bottles I really enjoyed and would buy again. My cabinet now consists mostly of re-buys, with the occasional new bottle when something new comes out from a distillery i really like or when I read a good review on something I'm curious about

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

numen replied

My cabinet is a bit of a mix. With the exception of a few bottles of things that I absolutely loved (A/A+ types), I don't usually go for seconds. In some cases, I haven't been able to get a second bottle of something because of availability or cost. As a result of all the one-offs, if I haven't opened it, odds are, I haven't tasted it yet, and am relying on samples or reviews/notes from friends and trusted sources (for instance, I think that my palate preference is similar, but not the same as, Adam from LAWS).

I have enough things open for my drinking speed to last a while, but I've found that I really enjoy sampling. Admittedly, there are some things that I'll try and wants lots more (Glenfarclas 40, some Broras, and a few other labels), and am more than happy to part with a few pours of even a favorite bottle to try something new. It can be difficult to find a place to get good sample pours, especially for rare/hard to find items, but it can definitely be worth it. Through that, I've had an opportunity to try many, many more whiskies and brandies than I would have been able to do otherwise. It helps build and develop my palate, but, more importantly, is just a lot of fun for me.

11 years ago 2Who liked this?

@SquidgyAsh
SquidgyAsh replied

Personally I mainly pick up samples, try samples at bars, etc more then I buy bottles. When I buy a bottle it's almost always something I've never tried before, but has peaked my interest, Heartwood's Convict Unchained, Talisker 57 North, Glenlivet Nadurra, etc. I find these days that the only bottles I actually purchase that I've tried before tend to either be from favorite distilleries such as Talisker or Buffalo Trace, etc. or were from samples that I've received from a distillery or independent bottler that I loved. I personally want to try and sample as much of the whisky world as possible, to explore as much of the whisky world as possible. Buying samples helps me achieve that better then buying full bottles of stuff that I enjoyed.

With research though I've found that picking up full bottles of stuff that I haven't had before has really paid off as I usually wind up getting a kick out of the whiskies, but still get to expand my range of what's out there.

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Bourbondork
Bourbondork replied

My bunker started out primarily of out of production bourbons. Now days, it's stocked quite extensively with things I've tried or picked. I would say my collection is make up of my preferences over buying to explore. There's very few I can say were bad buys. The recent Julio's Go Whiskey Weekend is a great opportunity to try many many whiskies before you buy...think the count this year was around 265.

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

@muckrum
muckrum replied

As a novice I sincerely wished more distillers/producers/bottlers considered the 20 cl bottle as a way to introduce their most popular offerings to new clients such as myself. At this time only a few bottle 20 cl and apart from buying minis (which are unsuitable for tastings where more than one person is present) we are forced to buy 70 cl bottles. Fortunately, the people bottling 20 cl's have made available some great malts such as the Lagavulin 16yo, the Cragganmore 12yo or the Dalwhinnie 15yo.

11 years ago 2Who liked this?

@PMessinger
PMessinger replied

@muckrum First welcome second I hope this site helps you with all your questions in the future. I agree that having more 20cl bottles from more distilleries is a good thing. I know that as a student money concerns are always foremost in your thoughts. When it comes to whisky buying you are in the right place to start. I would say that you will be able to get lots of blended whiskies for reasonable rates and those are a good place to start. Hope this was helpful. :)

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

@muckrum
muckrum replied

@PMessinger Sure thing. However, I am interested in buying stuff that is a bit less available than what your local generally carries. I'll always find opportunities for more commonly available whiskies later on at bars, hotels, functions, etc. For now we want to sample as big a variety as possible in order to further our education.

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Onibubba
Onibubba replied

Extensive. I'm in that phase where I want to try new things, but want to always have a bottle of things I like on hand. Add to that the ever-rising cost of whisky, and the sheer number of 'limited" bottlings, and I find myself buying much more for the war chest (or bunker), than for the bar.

For every 1 new whisky that I buy to try, I would guess I buy 2 bottles of something tried and true that I thoroughly enjoyed and want to always have on hand. I will admit that it is starting to get a little out of control.

11 years ago 3Who liked this?

@PMessinger
PMessinger replied

@muckrum That's a great place to start. My cabinet has both blends and single malts most of which I have bought to try for the first time along with my favorites from days gone by. @Onibubba like you I have those expressions that I like to keep around like good old friends. There is a lot to be said for the tried and true. :)

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

juqkis replied

For me the most commanding detail in what whisky I buy is what I can get my hands on. Living in Finland, our alcohol taxation and monopoly makes it a bit tricky to order whiskies or alcohol in general. Some, or actually most, or online retailers don't even send whisky to Finland. That's not too good for whisky friends. But luckily we have travelling, our monopoly on alcohol Alko and our dear southern neighbors the Estonians! From these "resources" I can get a quite good range of whiskies.

But how do I pick the ones I want? I used to buy what I thought I'd like based on the brand or area, but those times are long gone after a couple of costly mistakes... ;) Now I buy whiskies that I have tried or ones from distilleries that's spirits I generally like. Rarely do I buy full bottles of ones that I haven't ever tried or at least gotten several good review on.

11 years ago 2Who liked this?

Rigmorole replied

I rarely buy "whiskey." I'm a whisky man. When it comes to the intrepid side of my nature as a consumer, I am still learning, so I'm still experimenting. I will settle down in the next few years into a middle aged pattern, I'm sure.

But for now . . . I have dropped at least $500 in the last year on gambles that did not pay off and that I was not entirely happy about. Still, it's the experience that counts to me. This website is quite helpful and has greatly accelerated my success with risky purchases.

My last dud was Dalmore 15. I'm not blown away by the Peat Monster, it's still fairly full, but it was a fun risk. Glengoyne was a pleasant surprise but it is a little "high pitched" on the tastebuds. I like a deep, complex malt. Aberlour 18 was a wonderful gamble that paid off, although in all fairness it was a "sure thing."

I have cut down on risky "blind purchases" significantly by using this site in conjunction with the Highland Stillhouse, which can get very expensive indeed but allows one to taste a shockingly wide swath of single malt scotches. I have dropped at least a cool G in there over the past year.

So . . . how's this data for the marketing eggheads in The Industry? I suppose I'm not a typical consumer, but at least I'm a real person and not an insider pretending not to be in the industry like some folks on here ; )

11 years ago 0

@HeartlessNinny

I'm still a relative newbie, so I buy bottles I've never tried, primarily based on reputation. So far I haven't come across much in the way of disappointment. But that's mostly due to the fact that this very website is a gold mine of good information. :)

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

Jonathan replied

@rigmorole I'm interested in what about the Peat Monster left you wanting. (BTW, was it the brown box or the newer, darker one that has Laphroaig in the mix) ? It has been a few months--and I am only eight months in---but what I liked about the more recent batch is the blend of Laphroaig and the milder Speyside notes.

11 years ago 0

Rigmorole replied

Jonathan: It's not that I dislike the Peat Monster and I don't regret buying it. It just doesn't have the deep basso notes of say an Ardbeg or a Lagavulin. I would describe it as "trebley" and higher pitched in the notes. Very smoky and salty. Long finish. I find that newbies like it quite a lot. I've done samplings at my house for relative newbies and both of them chose Peat Monster over Uigeadail, for instance. As I've said before PM goes well with food. Smoked salmon, blue cheeses, etc. It goes well with food--much better than Ardbeg or Lagavulin does, IMO. It doesn't have quite the range of some of my favorite Islays but it is respectable. Also, the bottle is fantastic with the sea monster on it in a kind of abstract cartoonish way that reminds me of Icelandic art.

11 years ago 2Who liked this?

Rigmorole replied

Jon: I have the newer PM.

11 years ago 0

@FMichael
FMichael replied

Most of the bottles in my collection are duplicates; I usually buy 2, or 3 of the same scotch whisky; ones that I've enjoyed time, and time again.

That said there have been many single bottles; JW Green, Glenfiddich 15 yr Solera, Jura 10 yr, and a few different Balvenie 17 yr olds to name a few.

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

@PMessinger
PMessinger replied

@FMichael I have a similar situation in that most are expressions that I like and always want to have on hand. Some are never before tried and that was the heart of the discussion thread. Do we buy more out of wanting to explore or collecting ones that we've enjoyed. I'm somewhere around 50-50 as far as cabinet make up. I don't want to stop buying never before tried brands or even a possible second chance on one that let me down in the past, however where does one finally say okay I'm at my limits. Maybe that is for another discussion thread. :)

11 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor replied

@PMessinger, you mentioned that you are around 50/50 on acquiring bottles of new whiskies and accumulating bottles of favourites. I started more like 90/10 toward acquiring more of the new and untried, but have moved bottle purchases more and more toward acquiring favourites. I am probably now more like 70/30 for procuring only bottles of favourites.

Where is the limit on purchases? Too much money spent, too little space left for storage, and/or too many open bottles at one time,...these three elements set the stage for me. Sample trading is very practical when you have a lot of bottles on hand. For me 260 or so bottles, with 180 open, is enough. The rare exception new bottle will get through, and I may swap a bottle or two...but mostly I am looking to acquire and trade samples.

There is one very big sticking point, though. All of my sample and mini bottle experience has taught me that if you want good accurate representative samples to get to know a whisky that you really can only trust samples from a large bottle which you have observed from the beginning, or one of which you know its history. Sample tasting is great, but getting to know a whisky well requires repeated sampling and known controlled conditions.

11 years ago 4Who liked this?

@WhiskyBee
WhiskyBee replied

I think I've become a little more mature in my buying habits during recent months, and much of that is because of the advice I get from Connosr members. In assembling my cabinet, I wanted a good cross-section of the major distilleries, if only because a basic expression gives me some idea as to whether to pursue an older vintage or experimental finish.

The result has been that I now have a cabinet that's overflowing with both open bottles and entry- to mid-level expressions. But from that selection, I have some definite favorites, and I would say my last dozen purchases have, with a couple of exceptions, been replacements for those favorites. At this point, I don't think I need to acquire something new that "tastes similar to a young Glenfarclas" or whatever. I'd rather spend the money making sure I always have some Uigeadail or Laga 16 on hand.

There will always be room for something new, and I'm still socking some $$ away for a "special" purchase or two down the road. But I no longer feel compelled to buy something new for newness's sake. I'm making an effort to be a bit more informed and selective in my choices.

11 years ago 2Who liked this?

@PMessinger
PMessinger replied

@Victor You hit on a great point while I'm happy with roughly 50% of my cabinet / buying is good old tried and true brands that I love. The part that gets to me is the ah ha why didn't I think of samples before. The 50% that is newer untried stuff is all whole bottles and like you stated a great way to explore the whole whisky from beginning to end. The bottle count in my profile is current, I seem to be headed down the path of more micro and small batch, hard to find brands and can echo what @WhiskyBee stated about wanting to get the best cross section of expressions. Both of you have given me lots to think on thank you so much. :)

11 years ago 2Who liked this?

@talexander
talexander replied

To quote Louis C.K.:

"Like there's habits, like there's a pattern...it's just CHAOS!"

11 years ago 3Who liked this?

@YakLord
YakLord replied

So far I haven't repeated any expressions with the exception of the Glenlivet 12 and Talisker 10 (people keep giving them to me as gifts...), but I do have bottles of the Aberlour 10, Spice Tree, Peat Monster, and JW Green Label, which I have either sampled or owned before, in my unopened inventory. Other than that, my unopened inventory is 100% whiskies that I have not tried before (I'm attempting to work my way through Ian Buxton's "101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die")

Other than that, my buying habits are based mainly on what the LCBO has on sale or what I am able to pick up or have picked up for me when I'm on business or vacation!

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

@squidboy007
squidboy007 replied

I like the feeling of buying a bottle of something I've never tried. It feels like a dangerous exercise! Sometiems its really paid off, like when I bought a Bunnahabhain 12, but sometimes it's ended in slight disappointment (Deanston Virgin Oak.) That said, there are two habits I have while at the liqour store- reading up on every Scotch I can afford on this website so I might know what to expect- or looking for new bottles from distilleries I know I already enjoy.

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

@PMessinger
PMessinger replied

Sometimes I will feel sorry for a lone bottle that gets dumped on my local whisky shop and I will adopt that bottle to give it a home. That happened to me last week with a bottle of Ian Macloed Isle of Skye 8yr old. If the bottle is an expression I've not had before I'll often take a chance and bring it home. But this is not a normal part of my buying habits. :)

11 years ago 0

@Onibubba
Onibubba replied

I just returned from a trip to CA. I bought 7 bottles. 2 were whiskies that I have tried and wanted more of (Talisker 18). 2 were collection / special occasion whiskies (JW Blue, and a 1967 Longmorn). 1 was a new whisky to drink with friends that weekend (Balvenie 12YO Single Barrel). The other 2 were whiskies I have never had, but intend to drink soon (Longmorn 16, Clynelish 17YO AD Rattary bottling).

So, a bit of everything, which I gather is where most of us are. Of them all, only the Longmorns are a completely unfamiliar distillery for me.

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

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